Coppell Chronicle Vol. 3, No. 9
Bonds’ Fate Now Lies With Voters • Candidates Make Their Final Pitches • What Else Will be on Ballots? • Bill Would Make Coppell’s Lawsuit Moot
The cover story in the May issue of D Magazine — which has already landed in some subscribers’ mailboxes — is called “Why We Love the Suburbs.” It includes a two-page spread highlighting Coppell that’s full of quotes from some bald blowhard whose name you might recognize. (No, not Don Carroll.)
Bonds’ Fate Now Lies With Voters
Hey, have you heard Coppell ISD is having a bond election? The Chronicle’s most faithful readers may be tired of hearing about it by now.
My series of articles on this topic began with “CISD Trustees Propose 4 Bond Measures,” which included the detail about the vote to place a $321.5 million bond package on the ballot not being unanimous. Trustee Manish Sethi was the outlier, because he worried that the total price tag would be too large for voters to stomach. His concerns were based on data reported in “Survey Says Voters Don’t Want Arts Venue.” Nonetheless, Sethi’s Facebook page sports a cover image that indicates he’ll be voting in favor of the bonds, despite the potential tax hikes described in “Bond Votes Come Down to Taxes Going Up.”
In “Legislature Made Bond Elections Harder,” I explained why the bond package had to be broken up into four ballot propositions. Proposition B will cover most technology costs, as reported in “Proposition B Addresses ‘Unfunded Mandate’.” Propositions C and D are about the athletics projects described in “Bonds Would Refurbish Turf, Track, Courts.”
That leaves us with Proposition A, which represents more than 83 percent of the package’s total cost. If approved by voters, Proposition A would cover:
$88.5 million worth of priority condition needs at all schools and facilities.
$84.7 million to renovate three elementary schools — Austin, Lakeside, and Valley Ranch — that would get new pre-K classrooms.
$19 million for a new fine arts rehearsal building at Coppell High School.
$11.8 million for an expansion of the fine arts rehearsal space at Coppell Middle School North.
$11.3 million for safety and security enhancements at all schools and facilities.
$10 million for new STEM and career labs at Coppell High School.
$6.8 million to renovate the domed auditorium at the Coppell High School Ninth-Grade Center.
$5.1 million for equipment and furnishings at all schools and facilities.
$4.2 million worth of buses and fleet vehicles.
$2.2 million worth of network security and telecommunications infrastructure.
$1.4 million for multipurpose labs and makerspaces at all three middle schools.
There’s a lot to digest on that list, but let’s focus on the $11.3 million worth of safety and security enhancements. During the trustees’ Feb. 6 workshop, which happened one week before they voted to put the bond package on the ballot, they were told $7 million of that amount would buy new hardware for every classroom in the district that would allow teachers to lock their doors during an emergency.
On March 27 — which happened to be the day of the shootings at the Covenant School in Nashville — the trustees approved spending about $620,000 on forced-entry-resistant film on doors and windows across Coppell ISD. That purchase will be covered by a grant from the Texas Education Agency, which mandated new safety standards for all districts.
During that March 27 meeting, Chief Operations Officer Dennis Womack showed the trustees this slide that indicates passage of Proposition A is part of the district’s plan to meet those new standards.
Some people might say that the peace of mind that new door hardware would buy is worth the maximum tax impact of the bonds’ passage (estimated at $28 per month for the district’s average home). With the polls opening at 8 a.m. tomorrow, the decision now lies with the voters.
Candidates Make Their Final Pitches
About 100 people showed up at Coppell High School for a candidates forum on Monday night, but Julie Waters was not among them. She was also missing on Tuesday, when two districts’ school board candidates were invited to the Valley Ranch Library for a more sparsely attended event.
On Wednesday morning, Waters explained her absences via a public post on her Facebook page. Her husband had been hospitalized due to a recurrence of a condition that had threatened his life two years ago. He had returned home by the time she broke that news.
Because she missed Monday’s forum, Waters didn’t get to answer the question that moderator Lisa Johnson said appeared 40 times on her list of 70 submitted questions: Do you support the bond package? The four candidates in attendance all said they will vote for it, just as they did during the Coppell Chamber of Commerce’s forum on April 4.
(See “Which Candidates Will Vote for Bonds?” in Vol. 3, No. 7.)
Waters’ absence on Monday gave David Caviness, whom she is challenging for his Place 5 seat, an opportunity to zero in on the largest donor to her campaign: Place 4 candidate Jonathan Powers.
The moderator’s first question was about each candidate’s record of service to the district, and Caviness laid out an extensive list of experiences over his 11 years as a Coppell ISD parent. Besides two terms on the Board of Trustees, they range from dressing up as the Pinkerton Elementary mascot to his upcoming role as vice president of the Sports Medicine Booster Club.
(BREAKING NEWS, to me at least: There’s a Sports Medicine Booster Club?)
By contrast, Powers has lived in the district for less than two years, and his oldest child will enroll in kindergarten this fall. “As someone who is just starting out in the district, I don’t have CISD-specific volunteer experience,” he said. When Johnson later asked the candidates what they’ve done to learn about Coppell ISD and how long they’ve been doing it, Powers said he’s been watching board meetings and reading documents on the district’s website for six months.
Caviness said becoming a trustee without experience volunteering in the district would be a tall task: “You’re drinking from a firehose, no matter how much you prepare.”
Powers said there is an established path for becoming a Coppell ISD trustee — including service on the board of the Coppell ISD Education Foundation — that’s been followed by all of the current trustees. (Fact check: The trustee whom Powers is trying to succeed, Neena Biswas, didn’t serve on the foundation’s board, nor did Anthony Hill and Leigh Walker, although Walker’s husband did.) Powers said he wants to bring an outsider’s outlook to the dais.
“We need diversity of thought and perspective,” Powers said. “It’s hard to ask tough questions of the administration when they’re your friends.”
Powers’ two rivals for the Place 4 seat, Samit Patel and Ranna Raval, are both members of the Coppell ISD Education Foundation’s board. (Full disclosure: So am I, but my three-year term ends next month.) They also both served on the committee that helped craft the district’s $321.5 million bond package.
Patel has worn a lot of hats for the district, including stints on the District Education Improvement Committee and the Community Based Accountability System Advisory Committee. Like Caviness, he took Coppell ISD’s iLead course. Patel also serves on the Coppell Chamber of Commerce’s Education Committee and enrolled in that organization’s Leadership Coppell course.
Raval is not only a graduate of iLead, she also took iLead2. Thanks to rezoning, she has been a member of the PTOs at two different middle schools: West, where she served as president, and East. She is the only educator among the candidates, but she’s taking a break from teaching while pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership. If elected, she would be Coppell ISD’s first trustee from Valley Ranch.
Student journalists from Coppell High School’s KCBY program recorded Monday’s forum, but that recording has not yet been made available. (Update: Here it is.) If you click here, you can watch the April 4 forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. And the candidates for the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees and the Coppell City Council have all been invited to one more forum that’s scheduled for 8 a.m. tomorrow at the Coppell Senior and Community Center.
Meanwhile, I asked these seven hopefuls to fill out a questionnaire. Although I make my living as an editor, I resisted my natural inclination to edit their responses. If you think something looks out of whack in terms of capitalization or punctuation, I agree.
(Although the special election for Coppell ISD’s Place 7 seat was canceled due to a lack of challengers, incumbent Trustee Jobby Mathew spoke at both forums last week and asked to participate in my questionnaire as well. Who am I to reject a request for self-promotion?)
Early voting begins tomorrow morning. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday, from noon to 6 p.m. next Sunday, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 1 and 2. Election Day is May 6, when you can cast a ballot between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
What Else Will be on Ballots?
Portions of Coppell and Irving are within the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district, which is having a bond election of its own. Although the price tag of $716.4 million on the single proposition is more than twice the cost of Coppell ISD’s bond package, the CFB district says its tax rate will not increase. (Of course, tax bills can still go up due to rising property values.)
CFBISD residents also have to decide who will occupy the Board of Trustees seats occupied by Les Black, who is stepping down after one term, and Carolyn Benavides, who is seeking her first full term. She was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2021, then went unchallenged in a 2022 special election. Her competitors are newcomer Wesley Nute and Randy Schackmann, who is trying to return to the board after a year away. In 2022, he was one of five candidates vying for three seats.
The Carrollton-Farmers Branch district uses a unique method of electing trustees called cumulative voting. There are two seats on the ballot this year, so each voter will get two votes. You can give both of your votes to a single candidate or divide them among two candidates.
“We let you vote twice,” Schackmann said during Tuesday’s forum at the Valley Ranch library, when Benavides added, “I would certainly appreciate that, if you would choose to vote twice for me.”
Nute and Schackmann filled out a questionnaire provided by the League of Women Voters, as did all of the Coppell ISD and Coppell City Council candidates. The league also got responses from the five Irving City Council candidates vying to represent District 5, which includes the Parkside East neighborhood within Coppell ISD. Two of the three candidates competing to represent Irving’s District 3, which includes Coppell ISD’s Parkside West neighborhood, also participated in the questionnaire.
Bill Would Make Coppell’s Lawsuit Moot
Just three weeks ago, I reported that court proceedings in the lawsuit that Coppell and other cities filed against Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar had been delayed until November. I’ve since learned that the trial has been further delayed until January.
If Morgan Meyer gets his way, the suit will be rendered moot long before then.
Meyer, a state representative from University Park, has filed a bill (HB 5089) that would shift sales taxes for online transactions from the seller’s city to the buyer’s city. If it becomes law, the bill would have the same effect as Hegar’s proposal: Coppell would lose about 18 percent of its annual revenues.
Thanks to an alert from the Coppell Chamber of Commerce, I learned that the House Ways and Means Committee — which Meyer chairs — held a hearing on his bill last Monday. Coppell Mayor Wes Mays and Deputy City Manager Kent Collins were among the witnesses who traveled to Austin to testify against the legislation. (Mays was the lead speaker starting at the 2:11:14 mark of this video.) Other cities with lots of warehouses — including Lancaster, Lewisville, and Longview — sent multiple officials to the hearing to register their opposition.
Meyer’s bill was “left pending” at the end of that hearing, and this flowchart from the Texas Legislative Council led me to believe that meant it was left for dead. But Chamber President and CEO Ellie Braxton sent out another alert on Thursday that said Meyer’s committee was going to consider the bill during a “formal meeting” that was not streamed. If you click here, you’ll see that the bill’s current status is “reported favorably as substituted” after a 10-1 vote.
That means the Ways and Means Committee is recommending a vote from the entire Texas House. With the Chamber’s assistance, I’ll stay tuned.
Congratulations are in Order
• Congratulations to Coppell Student Media, which on Saturday won its sixth Online Pacemaker award from the National Scholastic Press Association. Twelve schools nationwide were honored, including four from Texas. This is Coppell Student Media’s sixth Online Pacemaker award since 2017.
• Congratulations to the Coppell High School chapter of the Technology Students Association, which won the state competition for the second year in a row. Five teams took first place in their respective categories, and 22 students qualified for the international TSA competition.
• Congratulations to the Coppell Cowgirls golf team, which finished second in the regional tournament last week and earned a berth in the state tournament. That one’s scheduled for May 16 in Georgetown.
• Congratulations to Coppell resident Hannah Bilka, who is a member of USA Hockey’s women’s national team. Her squad captured the gold medal in the 2023 International Ice Hockey Federation’s Women’s World Championship last Sunday by defeating Canada, 6-3.
• Anybody who regularly reads the Coppell Chronicle knows I will bend over backwards for the sake of wordplay. In last week’s edition, I bent too far. My article about the zoning change and demolition permit in Old Town includes this sentence: “As with the previous 4-3 vote on the zoning change, the three votes in the minority happened to come from the three council members who are minorities: Brianna Hinojosa-Smith, John Jun, and Biju Mathew.” Multiple subscribers told me it sounded like I was trying to inject race into a story with zero racial elements. That was not my intention, and I apologize for the confusion.
• If you want the Rotary Club of Coppell to post an American flag outside your home on five holidays — Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day — you’ll need to pay $75 by May 1. Click here for more details on the flag lease program.
• Coppell ISD is asking all district parents to complete the Family-School Relationships Survey by May 5. Parents with children at multiple campuses are asked to complete a copy for each school. Meanwhile, anybody in the district can complete the ESSER Survey regarding how Coppell ISD should spend the remaining Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds it received from the federal government to offset the effects of the pandemic. The deadline for that survey is May 12.
• The City of Coppell will honor the Class of 2023 with its annual “Grad-venger Hunt,” in which graduating seniors’ names will be displayed on signs throughout town. Coppell residents graduating from a school not affiliated with Coppell ISD can be included if they submit this form by Wednesday.
• The zoning case regarding the empty plot of land in Valley Ranch next to MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church has been postponed until the Irving City Council’s June 8 meeting. That postponement was made at the request of Irving resident Sateesh Allada, who wants to build houses on the land, and Coppell resident Mike Gibbons, a pastor at the church that owns the land.
• Traffic could return to both sides of South Belt Line Road by May 1, Director of Public Works Mike Garza told the City Council during their April 11 meeting.
• A lit sign placed on the former home of Kasa Kolache on MacArthur Boulevard heralds the impending arrival of Chulopan Bakery.
• A banner hanging outside the former home of G3 Dallas Evangelical Church on Sandy Lake Road says it’s now known as Shreenathdham Haveli, the “First Pushtimarg Haveli in Dallas.” After firing up a search engine and texting a friend, I learned that Pushtimarg is a sect of Hinduism, while “haveli” is a Hindi word for “mansion” that in this context means “temple.”
• Have you ever noticed the building on Freeport Parkway that’s branded “Mitsubishi Electric Elevators & Escalators”? Proving that the apple doesn’t far fall from the tree, my teenage son noted the irony of such a business occupying a one-story structure.
End of District Bonfire: The Coppell Cowboys baseball program will host a bonfire (and a Dickey’s-catered dinner) outside Grow It Land Designs between 5:30 and 8 p.m. tomorrow. If you see the smoke and flames as you commute down Denton Tap Road, don’t be alarmed.
“Built to Move” Book Signing and Discussion: Kelly and Juliet Starrett will be at VariSpace Coppell between 3 and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday to promote their new book, Built to Move: The Ten Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully.
Peter and the Starcatcher: The play that provides a backstory for Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and Hook will be performed at 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and April 30 at the Coppell High School Ninth-Grade Campus.
The British Monarchy — History and Scandal: If the upcoming coronation of King Charles III has you royally flushed with excitement, be at the Cozby Library and Community Commons at 2 p.m. on April 30, when expert Rollin Phipps will present a history lesson augmented by artifacts, photographs, cookies, and tea.
Health & Wellness Expo: You might expect this event — which is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon on May 6 at the Coppell Arts Center — to include fitness classes, stretching sessions, and chair massages. What you might not expect is the opportunity to compete in a firetruck pull with a few of your friends.
Meet Your Neighbor — Discussions on Faith: Panelists will discuss their faiths and beliefs and answer questions from a moderator between 2 and 3:30 p.m. on May 6 at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
Muse — A Concert Inspired by Art & Artists: Inspiration and imagination will be key elements of the Coppell Community Orchestra’s performance at 3 p.m. on May 7 at the Coppell Arts Center.
Inked Fingerprinting Services: Because some companies still require ink fingerprints as a part of their hiring practices, the Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association of Coppell will start offering this service on May 9. They’ll be in the lobby of the Coppell Police Department between 5 and 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays. The cost will be either $10 or $15, depending on whether customers provide their own cards. Payments will be accepted via cash or check only.
Four Day Weekend: The acclaimed improv comedy troupe will be at the Coppell Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on May 11. Other shows are scheduled for June 8 and July 13.
Run to Fund: The Coppell ISD Education Foundation’s annual fundraiser, which features a 5K race and a 1-mile fun run, is scheduled for May 13 at Andrew Brown Park East. The prices go up on May 1, so register soon.
Coppell 5K: The annual race benefiting Coppell’s Special Olympics teams is scheduled for June 3 at Andrew Brown Park East.
D Magazine- can’t wait to read it, thanks!
CISD Candidates- their responses, thanks!
(Yes, tired of, and will be glad when it’s over)
HB5089- I watched the video of all the opposed speakers. Informative. Chair Meyer seemed condescending with questions and his repetitive remark “35 states already have destination tax sourcing….”, was getting on my last nerve. As if by saying it aloud over & over makes it a good and right thing! Thankfully, the last few speakers, (in particular John Kroll and Kyle Kasner) provided THE most eye-opening facts and information regarding the very negative consequences this Bill could/would have on the state of Texas! Good grief, I hope it Fails!
Wonderful article. I wasn’t able to make any of the forums, seeing the candidates answers helped in my decision. I appreciate your hard work bringing the nitty gritty to us!